Posted on: March 28, 2017
Views: 639


“Selves-ies” depict Richardson in highly saturated colors and close proximity. Existing as both digitally rendered prints and digitally accessed imagery (such as a smartphone or laptop), Richardson capitalizes on the technological era of pseudo-voyeurism and the aesthetic of the “Instagram model”. Wigs, costume changes, facial expressions, and props all become part of this “selfie” performance in which the line between collective self and actual self is intentionally blurred and exploited. However, there is an interesting dichotomy and politicality that occurs with the self portrait. The attitude surrounding selfie culture, something mostly female driven, mocks and belittles the act as something of either pure narcissism or insecurity. And yet the male artist has been depicting himself for centuries. Female subjectivity, and therefore lesbian subjectivity, is a cultural activity that is continually devalued through its consumption by the male audience, and therefore unable to be rendered as a culturally important artifact.

Richardson’s Selves-ies series may not be seen as highly political on first glance. These over performed and colorful images could have been ripped directly from an Instagram feed. But there is a type of subversion occurring here through the co-opting of this visual language and the insertion of one’s self into male-created culture. It is both an act of self preservation and resistance. Certain lesbian theorists suggest that a women’s culture does not exist in male dominant societies, for gender identity and sexual desires are patriarchally constructed. This means that supposedly female culture is only created as a response to or for the sake of a male dominated society. Therefore, when the female body performs only for the sake of oneself or the sake of another female there is a disconnect and therefore a resistance to this power structure enacted by heteronormative culture. These images do not exist on an Instagram feed, searching for likes and male approval. They were not crafted with a heteronormative agenda in mind. They exist only in the spaces created by Richardson and presented only for her own personal satisfaction.

Other Projects by Shelby Wynne Richardson

Shelby Wynne Richardson

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MFA Student

Major: Sculpture

Graduation Year: 2017

Artist Statement:

Queer, for many, acts as an identifier. A proclamation of otherness or an unapologetic refusal to define oneself in the language of a culture not their own. Yet, most often queer acts strongest as verb. Queer: an action taken to dismantle that which does not apply. Queering spaces to give purpose. Queering materials and language to provide beacons and reminders of hope. Queering our narratives. Queerings the rules.

Through various methods of visibility, such as material culture or community driven discourse, my work aims to create lesbian cultural space for growth and empowerment. The reclamation of language, narratives, and sex positive dialogue works in opposition to patriarchal expectations and provides a sense of support for those feeling their stories are not part of the larger constellation of disenfranchised “others”. The reality is that queer bodies, specifically queer female bodies, need each other now more than ever.

Capitalizing on the perceptibility of certain materials and the overperformance of oneself, I begin to explore and push the boundaries of identity; reclaiming the underbelly of the visual culture while shining visibility on the queerness of my existence. Rooted between many places I am constantly drawing influence from the Instagram famous, those who wear their “plastic-ness” on their sleeves, and embrace fully the absurdity and spectacle of the feminine, and yet my life has never existed without the legacy and tradition of craft resting firmly on my shoulders.

The specificity of my materials is many times as important as my content, as I search for ways to utilize inherent metaphors or aesthetic qualities to reinforce my continued visual narratives. Through building these narratives surrounding queer female identity I contribute to the ontological experience of collective storytelling in which those who experience feelings of “otherness” find personal reclamation in the identification of a space made just for them. Through my use of adornment, glitter, and kitsch I elevate these materials while at the same time making cultural space for those who share in feelings of cultural invisibility.

I can see you. Do you see me too?